Sunday, May 15, 2011

Donovan Wasting Time In MLS

As Landon Donovan relaxes, following another goalscoring performance for the LA Galaxy, it is impossible for the watcher on not to think about what could have been.

Arguably the greatest of his generation in the United States, Landon Donovan has become the face of US Soccer, a World Cup hero, a California boy, and the best footballer in Major League Soccer. However, while many young US stars have been only too happy to jump ship and move to Europe, Donovan has remained rooted to the ground, shuffling his feet in a league that doesn't deserve the talent he possesses.

Despite playing a limited number of games this season, Landon Donovan is the top scorer in Major League Soccer, with seven goals from midfield. Due to injuries to three of the league's leading players, Donovan has inserted himself as a run away favorite for the league's MVP award, a title he has won before in 2009. Donovan is a three time MLS Cup winner, a World Cup star and an icon around the country, but yet, in the world of European soccer he is a nobody, a man who's country has been defined not by a man from LA but by the likes of Stuart Holden, Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride.

77248905VD009_TORONTO_FC_V_Last winter, Landon Donovan fulfilled a three month loan spell with Everton, and acquitted himself well in the Premier League, scoring goals, and acquiring a cult following at Goodison Park. After such a success, it seemed only a matter of time before Donovan made a permanent move to Europe, but once again the player was reluctant to leave, and elected to remain at LA.

While Donovan will no doubt continue to score goals in Major League Soccer, his talent will also begin to stagnate, a lack of high level competition will hinder his improvement as a player. Quite simply, Donovan is too good for the league he plays in, he is wasting his time while his fellows excel, and if a move to Europe is not made, then he will risk becoming an outcast in the world of soccer, a man with potential, but no desire.

As an American, and as someone who dearly wants to see football grow in the States, Donovan has become an enigma to me, a source of extreme frustration as I watch his peak years trundle away in Major League Soccer.

When David Beckham completed his move to the Los Angles Galaxy in 2007, it was said that it was the Englishman, who would make the game grow in the United States, but in truth a glitzy star was not what was needed, a home grown talisman, playing for a big club in a top European league was. Imagine if a player like Donovan, plying his trade in Europe, carved out a career at a competitive Champions League team, what better way to inspire young Americans to get into football than to have them watch a countryman shine on the world's grandest stage.

It is said that the United States of America only appreciate the game once every four years, as they roar on the Red, White and Blue at the FIFA World Cup. Well, if a player like Donovan was competitive in a tournament like the Champions League, perhaps America's World Cup excitement could be sparked more regularly, as crowds of fans would congregate in bars, to watch their man play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Players like Landon Donovan are the reason for the inert progression of US football. Men like Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden deserve all the credit in the World for their travails, they have carved out new avenues for American players, while the likes of Donovan continue to remain static, refusing to promote the game abroad, refusing to give American football the boost it so dearly needs.

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